In February 1941, Philippine Airlines, the first and oldest commercial airline in Asia operating under its original name and the flag carrier of the Philippines, was founded by a group of businessmen.
In March 1941, the airline’s first flight with a twin-engine, five-seater Beech Model 18 aircraft took off from Nielsen airfield in Makati with Baguio as destination.
In September 1941, government investment in PAL paved the way for nationalization.
In February 1946, after its services were interrupted during World War II, PAL resumed operations with service to 15 domestic points with five Douglas DC-3 aircraft.
In July 1946, PAL became first Asian airline to cross the Pacific with a chartered Douglas DC-4. A regular service between Manila and San Francisco started in December.
In 1947, with the start of a DC-4 service to Rome, Madrid, and London, PAL became the first airline in Southeast Asia to fly to Europe.
In 1948, 2 newly acquired DC6s enabled Philippine Airlines to reduce the trans-Pacific crossing to 30 hours from 41 hours on the DC-4.
In 1954, all flights to Europe, Japan and the US were suspended by the Philippine government. Flights were resumed five years later.
In the 1960s, PAL entered the jet age with the introduction of DC-8 jetliners, used for long-haul international flights to Europe and the US, and BAC One Eleven Series 400 aircraft, used for short-haul flights to Cebu, Davao and Bacolod.
In the early 1970s, PAL continued to extend its international services with flights to Frankfurt and Melbourne.
In January 1974, Philippine Airlines became a monopoly in domestic air travel after President Ferdinand Marcos (by virtue of his powers under Martial Law and due to the fuel crisis arising from a war in the Middle East) ordered the foreclosure of two other airlines – Filipinas Orient Airlines (FOA) and Air Manila Inc. (AMI). PAL was told to absorb the aircraft and staff of the two airlines.
In July 1974, Philippine Airlines entered the era of the wide-body jet with the arrival of the first McDonnell Douglas DC-10.
In October 1977, the Government Service Insurance System acquired 92% of PAL shares from Benigno Toda, majority PAL owner, returning ownership and control back to the Philippine government.
In August 1979, PAL became the first Asian carrier to fly into China when it introduced a route to Beijing and Canton with the first of two B727-200s.
In the 1980s, PAL’s first Boeing 747-200 (dubbed as Jumbo jet) started flying across the Pacific, Dubai was added to the Middle East route, Paris became a stop in the European service, and Trans-Pacific service was extended to Chicago. A300 services were introduced between Manila and Cebu and Ho Chi Minh City.
In 1987-1989, new additions were made to PAL’s domestic fleet: Shorts SD360s (known as Sunriser, went into service in the Visayas and Mindanao), two Fokker 50 and two Boeing 737-300.
In January 1992, PAL was privatized again, when a 67% share of PAL was sold by the government to PR Holdings, a holding company. However, a conflict as to who would lead PAL led to a compromise in 1993, when Carlos Dominguez, former Agriculture Secretary, was elected PAL president by the airline’s board of directors.
In 1996, the delivery of the fourth Boeing 747-400 signaled the start of an ambitious US$4 billion modernization and re-fleeting program with the goal to make PAL one of Asia’s best airlines within three years. The acquisition of 36 state-of-the-art aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, between 1996 to 1999, was the centerpiece of the program: 8 Boeing 747-400, 4 Airbus A340-300, 2 Airbus A340-200, 8 Airbus A330-300 and 12 Airbus A320-200.
Early in 1998, the re-fleeting program was about halfway through when the full impact of the Asian financial crisis struck the airline industry. PAL pulled out of most routes and drastically reduced its fleet. In September, the airline suspended operations for 14 days as the Asian financial crisis took its toll. Operations were resumed on a limited scale in October.
In June 1999, a capital infusion of US$200 million by chairman Dr. Lucio C. Tan and his associates, followed by a rehabilitation plan designed to return PAL to financial viability approved by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission, allowed Philippine Airlines to begin the climb back to full recovery.
In 2000, PAL returned to profitability in its first year of rehabilitation, after six years of heavy losses.
In 2002, combining all former frequent flyer programs, PALSmiles, Mabuhay Club, and the Flying Sportsman (now SportsPlus), into one, PAL unveiled an enhanced frequent flyer program, Mabuhay Miles.
In 2004, PAL marked its 63rd year with Las Vegas service launch. It also launched E-ticketing, allowing passengers to book, pay and get a seat by phone or thru internet. As part of continuing drive to rejuvenate its fleet, PAL took delivery of two virtually brand-new Airbus A320 aircraft.
In May 2006, PAL passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit, a requirement for maintaining IATA membership, making PAL the only Philippine registered airline to be certified safe by IATA.
In 2007, PAL took delivery of its eighth and ninth Airbus A320-family aircraft, part of the modernization program for its narrow-body fleet that began in 2006.
In 2008, the Philippines’ aviation industry was downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2 by the FAA. This prevented PAL from increasing its flights to the US or from switching the type of aircraft used unless the airline undertook a wet-lease agreement with a different carrier.
In May 2008, Philippine Airlines launched the regional subsidiary PAL Express. A fleet of Bombardier Q300 and Q400 marked the return of turboprop operations, offering inter-island, low-fare service to match those of competing low-cost carriers.
In 2009, PAL took delivery of the country’s first Boeing 777 and re-configured all Airbus A320 aircraft to bi-class (Mabuhay and Fiesta), making PAL the only Philippine carrier to offer Business Class service on all domestic flights.
In March 2010, PAL was banned from flying to any European destinations after all Philippines-based carriers were placed on the EU aviation blacklist.
In March 2011, Philippine Airlines celebrated its 70th year by commemorating its storied past while charting a course for the future.
Since 2012, with the San Miguel Corporation takeover, PAL has released firm plans to re-establish its intercontinental route network.
On July 10, 2013, after an EU Audit team inspected the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the ban on PAL was lifted. PAL was the only Philippine carrier removed from the EU aviation blacklist.
In April 2014, the Philippines’ status was upgraded to category 1 by the FAA. As a result, PAL announced its plans to resume service to New York and start services to Chicago, San Diego and Florida.
In March 2015, after 18 years, Philippine Airlines returned to JFK – New York via Vancouver with the longest service in PAL’s network.
In March 2016, PAL unveiled its new marketing campaign and brand philosophy – Heart of the Filipino. With flagship initiatives, such as service innovations (myPAL Inflight Entertainment System, myPAL Upgrade, myPAL Roam), route network expansion with new international and domestic routes, and fleet modernization with 7 new aircraft (2 Boeing 777-300ERs and 5 Airbus A321s) and orders for 6 Airbus A350-900 and 5 Bombardier Q400 NextGen, the airline aims to become a five-star airline in five years.
Starting in June 2017, Philippine Airlines rolled out the reconfigured A330 aircraft. The cabin layout of eight mono-class A330-300 aircraft was converted into a three-class model with 309 seats, 18 lie-flat seats in Business Class, 24 seats with a legroom of 38 inches, a width of 19 inches and a recline of 8 inches in a 2-3-2 configuration in Premium Economy Class, and 267 seats with a legroom of 32 inches, a width of 17 inches and a recline of 6 inches in Economy Class.
In February 2018, Philippine Airlines was certified as a 4-Star airline by Skytrax, joining 40 other well-renowned airlines in this prestigious category. The rating upgrade is a key result of the great improvements that the airline has introduced since 2016.
Since its founding in 1941, although Philippine Airlines aircraft have been involved in a string of accidents, the majority of the accidents have occurred with propeller aircraft during the early years of operations. The most notable from the accidents in which a few PAL jet aircraft have been involved is the explosion on board Philippine Airlines Flight 434 that killed one passenger and damaged vital control systems. Fortunately, Captain Eduardo Reyes, an experienced veteran pilot, was able to land the aircraft, saving all the remaining passengers and the plane. Since 2000, Philippine Airlines recorded no fatal accident.